Feb 14

Xbox 360 controller

Too many times I think a conversation like this one happens when people are developing computer games:

Person 1: “Right, so as they go from level to level, things get gradually tougher. Harder puzzles, stronger enemies, that kind of thing. Right?”

Person 2: “Right. Except for this point right here, where we’re just going to jack it right up to ‘impossible’ and see what happens.”

Person 1: “What, with no warning? No gradient? Just a sudden leap from manageable to impossible? What do you call that?”

Person 2: “Ah, you see, we call that a challenge. The users will love it.”

Now it would be very easy to assume that this is sour grapes because I am playing a video game and can’t get past a particular section* but I have played enough games, and experienced this phenomenon enough times, to think that such a conversation might well take place during the game development process. A game builds up an enjoyable level of challenge, gets gradually tougher to match your increasing level of comfort, and then BOOM – unkillable enemy / neverending swarm of enemies / puzzle that fucking Einstein would have to have looked up on YouTube to get a walkthrough. Or, even worse, a game that is unbeatable at level 10 if you make the wrong decision on level 7. Didn’t save at the right point? Upgraded the wrong thing? Didn’t buy that ammo / map / health pack when you had the chance? Well that’s you bucko, might as well go back to the start.

Or, even worse, a maze. I always think that a maze is a game developer’s way of telling the player that he/she would much rather get to the pub and have a drink. Need to extend the game a bit? Whack in a maze. Because nothing makes dropping 40 quid on a game feel worth it than wandering around a fucking maze. If I wanted to do that, do you know what I would do? PUT OFF THE CONSOLE AND GO TO A MAZE. Then there’s the selective agility issue – I’ve lost count of how many times in a game I have controlled a character who has beaten up bad guys, leapt from roofs, pulled off all sorts of superhuman stunts and then can’t climb a waist-high wall to get to an objective. Why? Because the game developer wants you to go over there and fight a bad guy. Never mind that the thing you are looking for is two feet away over a garden fence and your character has so many muscles on him that from a distance he would just look like a particularly threatening penis, you can’t get it. Go do what you’re told.

All of which tells me that it’s time to get out a book and read for a while. Feel free to laugh and point.

* Easy, perhaps, because that’s pretty close to what it is. I never claimed to be a saint. But I will say this: FUCK YOU, DEAD SPACE 2. FUCK YOU.

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